As we plan our times of worship, there’s both the excitement of crafting the flow and the responsibility doing so rightly. Choosing elements for the worship gathering is a process by God’s Word and Spirit. I may want the super-artistic approach, but what does the Holy Spirit say? I may want to introduce that new song, but holding off and offering songs that stabilize the focus may best serve God’s people. I'm constantly considering the parts of a service.
But can I be honest with you? I have too often planned these godly good "parts" of the service and just filled in transitional space with that “thing” called prayer.
As God has helped me in planning, He’s directed me to spend more time considering how to pray thematically and intentionally. Normally, we plan as such: “So there’s final song here and video there. We really need to soften that transition. Any ideas? Ahh yes… let’s just pray there.” JUST PRAY? JUST? PRAY? When we pray as worship leaders and pastors, we are able to engage with God and His people on a level that should be most fervent and vibrant.
When we pray, thank God, it is not sent through the Postal Service. Thank God, it is directly connected to the Creator of Heaven and Earth, Who is almighty, living, true, immutable, eternal, incomprehensible, holy, righteous, good, loving, merciful, gracious, and infinite! If I get to pray while leading worship or leading a song, it had better be humbly passionate for the glory of this Great God! We talk to our family, friends, and colleagues in a horizontal normative way. But when we approach the throne of God, we are addressing the source and fountainhead of our blessedness.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
It’s helped me to rightly approach God in prayer after a few songs by just pausing and reflecting and even uttering a focused thanks and praise before every saying “Father…”. Maybe the church of Colossae needed the same reminder I often need - Be watchful in prayer.
Our public praying helps others form their own words for private prayer. Don’t expect fervent personal devotion and prayer in your congregation if you have not exemplified it. If you aren’t praying God-dependent Christ-centered prayers, don’t expect your people to either. Sometimes praying through the lyrics of a song are helpful, because you’re forming the confession from proclamation into supplication. Do you ever wonder why the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray? The habits of Jesus were quite influential on his disciples. He regularly showed dependence on the Father (Jn. 5) and was found praying at times when others weren’t (Mk. 1:35). It’s after Jesus finishes praying (in Luke 11) when his disciples are intrigued about prayer for themselves. Worship leader, make disciples in your prayers!
What To Pray
Often we pray charismatic, joy-filled, general prayers - and that’s great! - but have you ever prayed in repentance, or for healing, or financial wisdom? Have you ever prayed God’s specific will? Have you prayed for your sins and the sins of your church? When we pastorally lead a service, the gravity of the moment is for Christ to be formed in us. We should pray according to the Scriptures, because God hears us! (1 Jn. 5:14, Jas. 1:5-6) We should ask the Spirit to fulfill eager groaning in us when we know not what we ought to pray. (Rom 8) Leading a service in Spirit-led Word-drenched prayer will steer hearts to see the Gospel and worship from a true place of dependence.
Isaac Watts said, “Prayer is the proper work of the heart; yet in this present state, in secret as well as in social prayer, the language of the lips is an excellent aid in this part of worship.” Prayer will reflect your confession and your confession directs how you worship.